SSeparation Anxiety in your dog can be upsetting to deal with – knowing their distressed can be heartbreaking as an owner. Milo suffers with separation anxiety and it makes me feel guilty every time I have to leave him. Thankfully there’s a number of things you can do to make being alone easier for your pup.
What Is Separation Anxiety?
Separation Anxiety is a condition where your dog exhibits distressed behaviour and behavioural problems, usually when they’re left alone for a prolonged period of time (ie when you’re at work). Our pups are sensitive creatives who form extremely strong attachments, therefore when they’re left alone it can be quite a stressful time for them.
It’s advised by The Blue Cross to try and train your pup from a young age to get used to being alone for short periods of time, so that as they grow older they can be left for longer without being distressed.
What Are The Symptoms Separation Anxiety?
There are a number of symptoms of Separation Anxiety, the most common being barking and howling (this is exactly what Milo did!).
Barking & Howling
Barking and howling caused by separation anxiety is often persistent and can last for hours. It’s the most common symptom, but also the one most likely to upset your neighbours.
From chewing furniture (particularly door frames and window sills), to destroying household objects, your dog may partake in destructive behaviour when you aren’t around. This can be particularly frustrating as an owner, but can also injure your dog, causing damage to their teeth and paws.
Defecating In the House
Often this happens in the same area, as your dog urinates to mark their scent near your belongs. If your dog defecates whilst you’re in the house, then this isn’t part of separation anxiety.
You dog may pace up and down the room or even in circles when you’re gone; as they feel anxious and uneasy. The rhythm of pacing in the same shape or line can help to calm them and focus them on the pacing, rather than missing you.
Not the nicest of symptoms, but your dog may consume their excrement when suffering with separation anxiety.
What Can Trigger Separation Anxiety?
There are a number of factors which can trigger Separation Anxiety, however the most common is a change in circumstance or loss of a loved one:
Loss of a Loved One
Losing a loved one doesn’t always mean they’ve passed away. It could be a relationship ending and one owner no longer being around; it could being separated from other dogs your pup has grown up with. Sadly with relationship breakdowns this can be quite common and just like us, your dog needs time to adjust to people (and other animals) coming and going from their life.
Change of Home/Scenery
Moving house is a stressful time for all involved, including your pup. It’s a completely new home for them, different scenery, new scents, new sounds, new walks – it can take a while to get used to, even simple things like learning when the back door is! All of this can be overwhelming for your dog, particularly if they’re left alone from the start and can trigger separation anxiety.
Change of Schedule
An abrupt change in how long your dog is left alone can trigger separation anxiety. Say your job schedule changes, meaning that your pup is alone for double the time, it can be quite a shock for your pup as they’ve gotten into a routine.
How Can You Cure Separation Anxiety In Dogs?
Whilst there’s no cut and dry cure for Separation Anxiety, there are a number of things you can do to make your dog feel calmer and less distressed whilst you’re out. I tried all of these with Milo and found that a combination of leaving the radio on (he liked Classic FM!), herbal medication, calming spray and leaving an item of my clothing worked – every dog is different though!
Leaving the TV on or playing the radio can help to calm your pup, as they’ll hear voices and are less likely to become alert or distressed by outside noises. I leave the Alexa on for Milo, with Classic FM playing, as it’s quite calming music.
Talking your pup for a walk before you leave can help to tire them out, so that they’re settled for when you go. It also becomes part of their routine and is something they enjoy before the calm.
Leaving an item of your clothing that contains your scent can be calming to your pup, as having your scent around them can help to make them feel like you’re there. I leave an old hoodie on Milo’s bed and he always snuggles in it.
Toys and treats can be a distraction when you leave (our toy boxes are perfect for that). It’s suggested to keep all toys in a box, rather than always on your pup’s bed, as you can then bring the toys out before you leave. Your dog will then associate the fun of toys with being alone, making it less scary and daunting.
Don’t Make a Big Deal of Leaving
It’s difficult to do, but when you’re leaving don’t make a big deal of out saying goodbye to your pup. They’ll know that you’re about to leave them and become anxious.
There’s plenty of fancy cameras you can get where you can interact with your pooch through the camera – there’s even ones you can trigger to throw out treats. That way, you can continually check in you your pup throughout the day and help to keep them calm.
Crates give your dog their own space, which helps them to feel secure. When you leave, placing a blanket over the crate will dull the senses, and also dull any barking your dog does do. If your dog already sleeps in a crate overnight, stopping in one during the day won’t seem unusual for them
Plug-Ins & Sprays
You can purchase plugins and sprays which release calming scents for your dog to help them feel less anxious. Adaptil is one of the more popular ones. I found the spray to be more successful than the plugin, as the scent is on your dog’s bed, not just in the air.
There’s a number of over the counter herbal medications available to help calm your dog and make them feel less anxious. If these don’t work, your vet can prescribe you something a little stronger, however they only like to do this in extreme situations, so please consult your vet.
Separation Anxiety is extremely common in dogs, the severity differs based on your dog and the changes in situation. You may need to try a few different things to find what works for your dog, but if you’re ever concerned or unsure, your vet is always available to consult.